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Spotlight on Indie #7: The Terraria Phenomenon

by: David Sanchez ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 5/25/2012 • Leave a comment

On this edition of Spotlight on Indie, Bright Hub writer David Sanchez takes a close look at the latest indie game to hit the scene, Terraria.

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    A Close Look at Terraria

    Terraria is quickly becoming an indie sensation, but why? When Terraria hit the PC about two weeks ago, gamers had only known about its development for a short period of time. Developer Re-Logic had announced the game, and a few short weeks later, it was on Steam, ready to be downloaded by gamers everywhere. So far, the game has received much coverage and critical acclaim, and its continuously growing sales speak volumes of the game's success.

    But what makes Terraria such an impressive title? Is it really garnering all of its merits due to the comparisons gamers have made to Minecraft, going so far as to call it Minecraft 2D? The short answer is a big, fat no.

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    A Unique Title with Its Own Appeal

    While there's no denying the similarities between Minecraft and Terraria, it should be noted that the latter is a completely different game with its own style, personality, and gameplay ideas. Though gamers do create, build, and customize, they do much, much more in Terraria. Aside from its open world design, Terraria offers side-scrolling action-adventure gameplay similar to revered classics such as The Legend of Zelda and Metroid. Minecraft 2D? Definitely not.

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    Reaching Mass Appeal

    It's very surprising that Terraria managed to do as well as it did from a commercial standpoint given the fact that it popped up out of nowhere. After all, here's this indie developer, Re-Logic, who basically said, "Hey, we're making a side-scrolling action-adventure game with crazy customization and sandbox gameplay." Then, just a short time later, the game is announced as complete and is available for the masses to download.

    Fast forward to one week later, and 200,000 copies of this $10 download have already been sold. And since then, you can bet that sales have continued to grow. Some gamers may find this type of success unusual, especially given the game's indie status and its sudden launch. But if you look closBy boldly providing action-adventure gameplay, the game is more than just a sandbox title. ely at Terraria, it's not hard to understand just why the game has been so critically and commercially successful.

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    Understanding the Success of Terraria

    Simply put, Terraria is awesome. It's one hell of a 2D action-adventure game, and it successfully incorporates an open world and allows you to mold and build it to your liking. The game's enjoyable attributes are a major part of its success. In addition to that, it's obvious that the folks over at Re-Logic care about their game. And if a developer cares about its products, then gamers will care. It's impossible to enjoy a game that is just thrown out there, with no attention from the developers and gameplay that's "just there." Terraria was not just thrown out there. It launched surprisingly soon after it was announced, but it wasn't simply released out of the blue, and if you visit the game's site, you will understand that.

    Terraria Online, the game's central online hub, is a site with an enormous amount of attention to detail. The site features videos of trailers and gameplay, forums where gamers can interact and set up multiplayer sessions, a blog where the devs keep players updated, and a growing Terraria wiki that's being built to teach gamers all about the game. The developers care about Terraria, because they have provided a massive site with everything gamers would want if they choose to buy the game and learn all about it.

    From a gameplay design standpoint, it's obvious Re-Logic didn't just put together a haphazard product with tacked on sandbox mechanics. Terraria is an action-adventure game about monsters, swords, and eventually guns. It could have easily succeeded featuring just these elements, and it would have been a damn fine game. However, by allowing gamers to explore and shape an open world, the developers opened the doors to receive massive success and praise.

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    Just Plain Awesome

    Terraria succeeds because of its ingenious gameplay and attention to detail on the part of the devs. 

    And you can rest assured that Terraria deserves all of the success and praise it has attained thus far. But why? Simply put, because Re-Logic managed to put together puzzle pieces in an eccentric and satisfying manner. The action-adventure aspect of the game is solid, and the game would have easily met plenty of acclaim had it just featured this type of gameplay. The open world, though massive and a bit scary at first, is surprisingly inviting and encourages you to explore its very depths in any way you choose. The freedom--to build your houses as you please, hunt monsters at will, dig away at the underground--is unprecedented in this type of game. The community is always online, always playing, and always waiting for others to join in on the fun, despite some hurdles that need to be jumped as a result of Terraria's server-based online multiplayer.

    Terraria is just plain awesome, and everything from its gameplay to its online presence to the official Terraria wiki make this a game that needed to succeed, because had it not, something would be unbelievably wrong. Thankfully, that's not the case. Thankfully, there are enough gamers out there who can truly appreciate a unique and shiny gem such as Terraria. Thankfully, there are people who don't need HD graphics to appreciate a game. Terraria is a new game, but it is already on its way to becoming a major phenomenon. And with Re-Logic continuing to release free content updates and showing that they care about their product, you can bet that gamers will continue to care.